Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Let Us Have the Courage to Turn Back and Make the National Stadium a True Legacy
MORI Mayumi  / Author

July 26, 2014
Japan's plan for a new National Stadium designed by architect Zaha Hadid is creating a major stir. Following a Diet decision to build a new stadium for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020 - as well as the Rugby World Cup in 2019, the design was chosen through an international competition in 2012. The outcome was criticized by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Maki Fumihiko and others, citing inadequacies in the competition process, deviations from the planned site, lack of a sub-track and the possibility that the cost of construction will significantly exceed the budgeted amount of 130 billion yen and end up somewhere around 300 billion yen. In October last year, we formed a citizens' group to advocate retaining the Jingu Gaien (outer parks of the Meiji Jingu shrine) and the existing National Stadium for future generations , and have been considering the issue from various angles.

The 2020 Olympic Games are sponsored by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and hosted by the city of Tokyo, and will take place at the National Stadium. It is currently being promoted by the Japan Sport Council (JSC) under the supervision of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. However, despite the fact that the project is being paid by taxpayers and its client-users are the Japanese people, the JSC did not disclose what was being discussed by its expert committee or provide updates on the screening process for a long time.

When it declared its candidacy as host city, the Tokyo Metropolitan government said it will "aim for a compact and cost-efficient Olympics by making maximum use of the legacies of the 1964 Olympic Games." It was only natural, considering that many people in the Tohoku region remained homeless and unable to return to their homeland after the tsunami and nuclear accident that occurred on March 11, 2011. The Olympic Games must be a source of courage for the people of Tohoku.

However, the plan to construct the new National Stadium goes against this hope. At 290,000 square meters – or 220,000 square meters in its reduced version, the stadium will be three times the size of the Olympic stadium in London, and will cost a whopping 130 billion yen – 170 billion yen based on more recent estimates. Standing 75 meters in height, it will feature retractable roofs, movable seats and air conditioning systems – all of them massive electricity guzzlers. Planners optimistically estimate maintenance costs at 4.5 billion yen, which are to be covered by revenues of 5.0 billion yen.

By the time the basic plan was announced in May, it barely resembled the original design. Ms. Hadid must have been dismayed. Moreover, the plan made no mention of the sub-tracks or the residents of the Kasumigaoka municipal housing complexes who will be evicted. And the C-film, which is not in inflammable but generates dioxin when burned and deemed too dangerous to use as roofing, was explained away by calling it a “shield.” Calculations were based on a consumption tax rate of 5 percent. The entire plan consisted of stopgap measures arrived at by repeatedly bending logic and fabricating the facts.

Is the IOC aware of this plan? The IOC upholds the lofty ideals of the Olympic Charter as well as the Olympic Movement's Agenda 21, which was adopted in 1999 in response to the Rio environment summit. One wonders if the judges of the design competition were even aware of these principles.

The Agenda stipulates that "A special effort must be made to encourage the best possible use of existing sports facilities." Perhaps it was this clause that prompted the JSC to commission the design firm Kume Sekkei in 2011 to draw up a renovation plan for the existing stadium. Yet, the JSC did not disclose the conclusion of that report, which said that "remodeling was possible at a cost of 77.7 billion yen."

Even where the construction of a new stadium is inevitable, the Agenda says that "These facilities will have to comply with local legislation and be designed to fit in with the surrounding natural or man-made scenery." The planned site is a scenic zone that limits the height of buildings to 15 meters, so publicly seeking designs for a stadium with a maximum height of 75 meters was in violation of the Agenda to begin with. Furthermore, the planned stadium requires cutting down trees and leveling parks within the Jingu Gaien, and evicting residents of public housing complexes. It will destroy the scenic view by towering behind the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery, a designated important cultural property. The Agenda also calls for information disclosure, consideration for the disadvantaged and consultation and cooperation with interested parties, without which "sustainable development" cannot be realized. Is the IOC prepared to accept the current plan, which so blatantly violates the Agenda? If so, it will leave a blemish in the history of the Olympic Games.

Let us have the courage to turn back. Let us call off the Hadid plan and instead renovate the stadium that reverberates with fond memories of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics into a beautiful and serviceable facility for the coming Olympics. Renowned architects such as Ito Toyoo – another recipient of the Pritzker Prize – say it is possible to increase the stadium's seating capacity to 80,000, implement seismic strengthening, expand the number of toilets, elevators and restaurants, and meet the latest media needs. It would even present us with a further option, of building a new, low-rise stadium with a simpler design.

Mikami Takehiko, a climatology professor at Teikyo University, says the grounds of the Imperial Palace, Meiji Iingu shrine, Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden and Crown Prince's Palace serve as a pathway for the southerly winds that prevent the heat island effect in metropolitan Tokyo. We must avoid constructing a "gigantic greenhouse" in this path. I call on host city Tokyo to conduct a stringent environmental assessment. Construction work must not start until a full-scale assessment has been completed, and the demolition of the existing stadium should be put on hold .

It is said that "Japanese society has an axel, but not a brake." There is no stopping a project once it is approved at the Diet and cabinet level, even when it is discovered to be wrong. The bureaucrats will rush ahead to realize the predetermined plan. That is how large-scale development projects such as airports, dams and nuclear power plants were completed, despite the lack of public support. By pursuing this latest plan for a new National Stadium, we will no doubt be sowing the seeds of trouble for generations to come. The Jingu area will be occupied by a white elephant used only for fifty days, and the Gaien Nishi-Dori (Western Avenue) will become a darkened valley sitting between artificial foundations.

According to an opinion poll conducted by the Nihon Keizai newspaper, 70% of respondents say the plan is "too costly" and over 60% favor "renovation." Let us then have the courage to turn back. An honorable retreat is no cause for shame. I firmly believe that communicating the "mottainai (don't let it go to waste)" mentality is the path Japan should take if it is to gain respect in the world in this era of environmental awareness and maturity.

Mayumi Mori is a writer and editor. She serves on the board of the Japan National Trust and is a former member of the Council for Cultural Affairs of Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

森 まゆみ / 作家 

2014年 7月 26日





 この計画をIOCは知っているのだろうか? IOCには高邁な「オリンピック憲章」とリオの環境サミットをふまえて1999年に採択された「オリンピックムーブメンツ・アジェンダ21」がある。コンクールの審査員たちはそもそもその存在を知らなかったのではないか?







一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Let Us Have the Courage to Turn Back and Make the National Stadium a True Legacy